I always thought that the Arizona Fall League was a place where teams sent their top prospects to play against the top prospects of other teams. The reasoning behind this is to get them playing against the best competition available, which would be beneficial to their development. In fact, on the AFL official website, it states “given the top prospects who play here, every game in the AFL is like a future All-Star Game. It’s a definite destination for baseball fans and families who want to see great action on the diamond.”
Most teams send a wide range of prospects, but the majority of them rank in the top 20 of their organizations. The stands are packed with scouts who are all their to see and evaluate. This season, the AFL features Byron Buxton, who many consider the top prospect in all of baseball. In previous years, we have seen Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Albert Pujols, David Wright, and many other top players in the game grace the AFL fields in October.
The question is why do the Mets continue to use this league as an extension of the regular season for players that missed time, rather than send their top prospects?
Hansel Robles is the highest ranked prospect that was sent to the AFL this season. Robles is currently ranked as the Mets’ No. 20 prospect on MLB.com, but depending on who you ask, that ranking could be lower. Don’t get me wrong, the five players they sent are nice players, but they aren’t considered the cream of the crop.
I had a brief discussion with Metsblog’s Michael Baron on Twitter yesterday, and we both have differing views on what the AFL is about. He argued that it was a way for the Mets to get the players they sent extra at-bats since they missed time due to injuries, and to further evaluate players. I argued that while it is about evaluating players, the AFL is supposed to be reserved for the top talent in the minor leagues.
The Mets obviously side with Baron’s idea of what the AFL is all about, while the majority of other teams in baseball seem to side with my view.
If it were up to me, I would be sending guys like Kevin Plawecki, Jayce Boyd, and T.J. Rivera to see what they can do against upper-echelon prospects of other teams. I would also had sent Cesar Puello.
Having these guys play against other top players would be incredibly beneficial to their development, and a way for the Mets to showcase some of their top talent.
Unfortunately, a lot of the Mets top talent is still in the lower levels of the minors, and you can only send one player that is below Double-A to participate in the AFL.
I scratched my head when I saw the players that the Mets sent this year. I understand that with strict innings limitations, they are limited with the pitchers they can send. I understand sending Cory Vaughn, but if they are trying to get players that were injured during the season more time, then why not send guys like Travis d’Arnaud, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Fulmer? Those guys could all use the extra work and they fit the bill of being top prospects in the organization.
While fans of other teams in baseball get to watch their teams’ top prospects playing AFL games on MLB Network, Mets fans get to watch players that the Mets send to get more at-bats. The Mets must’ve missed the memo that “every game in the AFL is like a future All-Star Game.” The AFL is a showcase league, and the Mets can’t even get that right.